Wokingham Art Society
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Talk by Martin Smith,
"Art of Oak 2", 16 March 2010
Do visit him at www.martinsart.net or email ms@martinsart.net - he offers a lot
We had had a taste of Martin Smith at the last AGM, but time was too short.
So we invited him back for tonight, to enjoy a full two hours.
This pun-titled talk looked at mid 19th to mid 20th century British art: landscapes, seascapes, portraits and interiors. No photos, I'm afraid, because they were all copyright. That makes a write-up very little compensation for people who were unfortunate enough to have missed the evening.

However, starting with the Sir John Wilkie's "The First Earring" and after running through works by Samuel Palmer, Turner, Landseer, William Etty, Millais, John Martin (Judgement trilogy), Dyce (Pegwell Bay), Tissot, Grimshaw, Frank Bramley, Frederic Leighton, Luke Fields, Waterhouse, Spencer, Lowry, Henry Moore and several others, he finally showed one of his own, "Bayliss Beach, 7th January 2006", a painting of the spot in New Zealand where his son-in-law proposed to his daughter - a surprize wedding present for them.

Martin Smith, "Bayliss Beach, 7th January 2006"
There's not much point trying to point out features of pictures you can't see - but you may value some more general observations.
Composition is well worth spending time on - as much as two years is said to have been devoted to it on some paintings.
Humorous touches (little details) can sometimes help even quite serious paintings.
Very dark backgrounds allow well-lit centres of interest to really zing - be they diaphanous white robes, sunlit clouds or sea, or even just people added to give scale.
Even if the background is not very dark, one can still create life by making adjacent lights and darks work together.
Colours need not be realistic - paintings may well have a predominant colour and use a very limited palette. We saw red seas, green timber etc.
Even self-taught artists (like Atkinson Grimshaw) can produce very atmospheric results.
It can help your painting technique to do actual-size precise copies of masters' work.
The Slade expects students to make meticulous measurements and become really familiar with the subject before painting.
Unconventional work (like Millais' Carpenter's Shop") can prompt vitriolic criticism.
Many works incorporate symbolism (European as well as local): if you're not familiar with it you can miss the whole point of some paintings.
Symbolism can be self explanatory, like Lowry's workers' tiny houses, and the workers themselves, dwarfed by nearby public and factory buildings.
Pictures gain enormously if attention is paid to recession: not just linear perspective but gradual changes of tone and colour with distance.
The really important part of a painting may not be the obvious subject: a still life arrangement or a tiny vase of flowers within a portrait.
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
People differed enormously in their likes and dislikes (I love Turner's "Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth" vortex painting but others wouldn't give it wall space - they only went for the much more representational stuff).
Nevertheless, I think everyone agreed that Martin provided us all with a stimulating, helpful and entertaining evening.

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